Voldemort: Morsmordre

16 Jun

“Mors” is Latin for Death, and “Mordere” is Latin for “to bite”.

Nagini represents Riddle’s immense fear of death. Being the last Horcrux to be destroyed, Nagini was very much Voldemort’s final clutch on to immortality.

Voldemort’s only true fear is death; not the deaths of others, but of his own death. To quote Rowling, he regards death itself as “ignominious”. He thinks that it’s a disgraceful human weakness, so if he were to see a boggart, it would most likely show his own corpse. This negative view of death is probably a result of his mother’s early death. Riddle just could not accept that if a person had incredible magical abilities, that they would allow themselves to prematurely die; he just did not understand.

The terror that he feels inside has often caused him to go to extreme lengths to avoid his own death, which is why he created Horcruxes. Even though the creation of these dark items dehumanized him and split his soul, he did it anyway. He did it even though he had to murder people just to create a single one. He also tried to find the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the Elder Wand, but was not truly successful at either. Some might wonder, if Voldemort is so afraid of death, why is he able to kill others at will so freely? Well, that’s because he has no empathy; zero, none. All other human life is meaningless to him. The fact that he can inflict death to someone, and in such a careless way, is one of the many reasons why Voldemort is such a horrifying villain. In many respects, he’s like Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, a “Psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic with zero empathy” .

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.”
Albus Dumbledore

Notice his weapon of choice, too. Voldemort will often torture his victims, but he always kills them using the Avada Kedavra curse. This curse is quick and results in no deformity or mutilation; there isn’t even any blood. It’s not so much that by killing others using this method, he doesn’t let himself truly see death, but it’s more like he’s flicking an annoying fly out of his face. Some fans have argued, if he let himself see the enormity of what he was inflicting, if he saw blood and gore, and saw the person slowly fade away, maybe he would think of them as real people. I’m not so sure about this, while it is still a pretty good point. However, I think because he has no empathy to begin with, it wouldn’t make a difference in his mind. Remember, he’s not afraid of other people dying, he’s just afraid of his own death. Voldemort is completely devoid of the normal human responses to other people’s suffering; he simply doesn’t think about about them.

“We really are talking about someone who is incredibly power hungry. Racist, really. And what do those kinds of people do? They treat human life so lightly. I wanted to be accurate in that sense. My editor was shocked by the way the character was killed, which was very dismissive. That was entirely deliberate. That is how people die in those situations. It was just like, you’re in my way and you’re going to die.”
– Author J.K. Rowling on Voldemort.

Why does one have to die? What happens when we die? Can one escape death? Questions like these are part of the intellectual history of the human race and are certainly present in literature. The themes of mortality and immortality are huge parts of the Harry Potter novels and are present in other fantasy literature as well; especially C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin and Peter S. Beagle. To Voldemort, death is something extremely fearful and  immortality is something desirable. If Voldemort transcends death, then he’ll no longer fear it. However, Jo presents a counterexample with Harry Potter. Unlike Voldemort, Harry learns that mortality can provide more advantages than immortality, and because death and life form a cycle, without one or the other, life would be incomplete.

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
– Albus Dumbledore

By portraying death and its psychological effects on the living, Jo effectively affects the reader’s emotions. Sadness and grief brought on by the loss of loved ones touches upon the reality of our mortality, to which every reader can relate. Sometimes, having a fear or generally negative view of death can make immortality seem like a desirable choice. So, it is not out of this world to understand Voldemort’s fear and desire for such a power. The human race has often dreamed of immortality because very few people really wish to die. After all, immortality means not having to worry about death – the complete unknown! However, as much as one dreams about this, human beings can never really escape death; not even in Voldemort’s case. I believe this reality inspired Jo to come up with ways of accepting death and mortality, which she had Dumbledore, Harry, and many other characters do. It would not be like her to end with a pessimistic and gloomy message for her readers, and that’s why she’s an incredible writer. She successfully uses Voldemort’s desire for immortality through bad example and sends a message to readers that seeking immortality is not the answer to such a fear.

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
– Albus Dumbledore

Dealing with and facing death are strong central themes in these novels. Unlike realist fiction, bound by a need to explore real social conditions and our many limitations, fantasy literature can explore philosophical questions that transcend the realm of the real. So honestly, I’m glad Jo took a different route and did not portray death as completely fearful, a reflection of the general attitude of most people. Instead she tried to make sense of it by using many perspectives. Voldemort’s obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price become easy to understand. We’re all frightened and death is definitely something one might want to conquer. However, it is this obsession that ironically kills Voldemort in the end; Jo’s subtle explanation of mortality ended up being quite clear: Embrace your life because you must, but also because like Harry, you really have nothing to be afraid of.

Lyall, Sarah (2007-11-04). “Movies: In Stetson or Wig, He’s Hard to Pin Down”. The New York Times, Movies (nytimes.com). http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/movies/moviesspecial/04lyal.html.


Like many successful authors, Jo’s writing is clearly influenced by religion, mythology, and other unique mediums. Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake, and horcrux, has a very unique history. Nagini or Nāga, (Hindi: नागिनी nāginī) is a deity or class of entity or being found in Hinduism and Buddhism, taking the form of a great snake, specifically the King Cobra. In Hindi, the female version is specifically translated to nāgī or nāginī. Various hindi mythologies portray naginis as female humans to their waists, but having the body and tail of a cobra. Much art shows these creatures with beautiful faces; many stories have a mortal man being lured into the Naga domain by one of these snake women. In the novels, Voldemort intended Nagini to be a safeguard and useful tool to his immortality. Nagini is introduced in the first chapter of the Goblet of Fire, where Voldemort is able to communicate with her due to his ability to speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes. In Order of the Phoenix, Harry views Nagini’s attack on Arthur Weasley in one of his dreams, and even comes to believe that he was the snake. Thankfully, it was just part of his ever-growing connection with Voldemort. In the final book, Nagini devours Charity Burbage, a Hogwarts Muggle Studies professor, after the Killing Curse is used on her. Nagini is later creepily placed inside the body of Bathilda Bagshot by Voldemort, and uses the hiding place to trap and attack Harry when he and Hermione visit Godric’s Hollow to find clues about the remaining Horcruxes. Once Voldemort discovered Harry’s explorations with his friends, Voldemort places Nagini into a protective magical cage to prevent her from being killed; he then uses her to kill Severus Snape by expanding this magical protection. When Harry pretends to be killed by Voldemort, Nagini is released from the protective enchantment; however, a distraught Neville Longbottom takes Godric Gryffindor’s sword from the Hat and beheads Nagini, setting up the climactic duel between Voldemort and Harry Potter.

this is sooo cute!!!


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